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Davis, California

Friday, April 19, 2024

Cafe Walter opens inside the Mondavi Center

New cafe is named after the late “Chief Executive Cat” of the center

Inside the Yocha Dehe Grand Lobby of the Mondavi Center is a new site — Cafe Walter — named after the center’s “favorite cat” who used to wander around the Arboretum and near the Mondavi Center before his death in September. According to the Walter’s Instagram page, he was the “Mondavi Center Chief Executive Cat.”

Gia Hellwig, the director of operations for the cafe, has been a member of the Davis community for over 15 years. She graduated from UC Davis in 2007 with a degree in human development, and during her undergraduate studies, she saw the development of the south end of campus, including the Mondavi Center and the development of the new King Hall. After graduating, she interned in Oregon before moving to San Francisco. She returned to Davis in 2009 as events manager at the law school. In Hellwig’s nine years as events manager, she encountered Walter quite a few times.

“When we would have events over here, Walter would be hanging out by the back or in one of the Mondavi staff’s offices,” Hellwig said. “He was here for two or three years before they found him in the Arboretum. They think he had a heart attack, I believe.”

The cafe had a soft opening on Jan. 14, and the Mondavi staff practiced making espresso drinks and ensured that all the machines were working. The next day, the cafe was open, offering special drinks, snacks and baked goods. New items have been rolling out since, and two weeks after opening oatmeal and scones were added to the menu. The cafe hopes to add breakfast burritos, salads and paninis soon. The cafe’s food and beverage offerings are through a partnership with Capitol Garage, a Sacramento restaurant. Once a week biscuits with honey butter from Porch, Capitol Garage’s sister restaurant, are brought to the cafe. According to Hellwig, the scones are “delicious” when warmed up.

Capitol Garage manages concessions and a full-bar for night-time shows, in both Jackson Hall, with a capacity for 1,800, and the Vanderhoef Studio Theatre, with a capacity for 250. Café Walter plans to offer a limited coffee menu for smaller night-time shows.

“We will use the espresso machine […] usually just for the shows that are going to be in the Vanderhoef Studio Theatre,” Hellwig said. “Otherwise, it backs up the line when you have 1,200 or 1,500 people.”

The Mondavi Center houses Jackson Hall, where undergraduate classes are taught throughout the day on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and once a day on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. According to Hellwig, traffic at Cafe Walter has being slowly picking up, and it already sees visits from students, staff and faculty who aren’t already inside the Mondavi Center and are nearby on campus.

Lisa Illes, a fourth-year biological systems engineering major, has a class across from the Mondavi Center in the Graduate School of Management once a week. Illes said that it makes sense to have an additional coffee shop there, as it’s easier to access, specifically for people at the Manetti Shrem Museum, the Welcome Center, the Alumni Center, the Conference Center and the Graduate School of Management.

“It’s really convenient to get to just hop across the quad and grab some coffee during the lunch hour,” Illes said.

Illes never interacted with Walter, but she thinks that it’s “cute” that the café is named after him, and that there’s a framed picture of him.

Third-year economics and statistics major Stephanie Lu went to Cafe Walter for the first time because she had an interview in the Conference Center. Lu thinks that the cafe will attract people who are willing to go out of their way to get there. She described it as less crowded than the Coffee House in the Memorial Union, where many students gather to meet or study. Lu thinks she will go to Cafe Walter maybe once a quarter.

“I live in downtown, so it’s kind of far for me to come here, but maybe if I want to [go] to the Arboretum or somewhere around here, I might come,” Lu said.

Despite Lu describing it as not too crowded, Hellwig thinks that might change soon.

“We’re pretty steady throughout the day,” Hellwig said. “But I think once we get our full food menu up and going, we’re going to be pretty busy all day long.”

Written by: ANJINI VENUGOPAL — features@theaggie.org


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